The mid-field drivers get a shot at the limelight this weekend

Rate the Race and Driver of The weekend. Round 4,

Baku City, Azerbaijan

Mean Reader score: 7.91%.

Well last year’s race with a mean score of 8.74 was rated the best of 2017, far higher than the score of 4.78 of the previous year’s inaugural race. This year’s race wasn’t as high as 2017, scoring a mean of 7.91%, ranking it third of the season so far.

The first forty or so laps made this year’s race look as if it would be closer to 2016 than 2017 as to be honest, not much happened, except for a fracas at the beginning between the two Force Indias, Serotkin giving Alonso a couple of punctures, Raikkonen and Ocon colliding and Verstappen and Ricciardo having two near misses. When the two Red Bulls locked horns on Lap 41 all hell broke loose.

Verstappen did his trademark double move in the braking zone and Ricciardo did his trade mark late on the breaks malarkey, the two together being a recipe for disaster. Ricciardo rear ended Verstappen and both Red Bulls were out of the race, giving us the second safety car of the race. Grosjean extended this already long safety car period by managing to crash into a wall, giving the four front runners time bunch up behind the safety car and pop into the pits for an unscheduled change onto ultrasoft tyres.

Well, for about 7 or 8 laps it looked as if the race may have ended under safety car conditions. Bottas, who had stayed out as long as possible (maintaining grid position) had taken the lead from Vettel, who until he pitted onto softs, had controlled the race comfortably from the front. Arch rival Hamilton had made a couple of bloomers (probably due to the excessive wind speeds which had whipped up at various points along the circuit) and wasn’t really in the running. That is, of course until disaster chose a two pronged approach to liven up this otherwise dull race.

Prong 1: The (second) restart saw Vettel make a very costly mistake locking up into turn 1 and lose two places to Hamilton and Raikkonen (and with only a couple of laps to go, had no time to make amends). Prong 2: A rogue piece of carbon fiber placed itself in exactly the right position on track for an unsuspecting Bottas to drive over it, puncturing (then totally delaminating) his tyre, putting him out of the race on the penultimate lap. (Enough to make a grown man cry.)

Hamilton won the race, Raikkonen (who after a brush with Ocon on the first lap, had dropped to the back of the pack) came second, and Perez, who had overtaken a beleaguered Vettel, became the only man in F1 history to make it onto the podium twice in Baku (and the most successful Mexican F1 driver).

Driver of The weekend: Charles Leclerc 35.80% of reader vote.

In only the fourth race of his rookie year young Charles Leclerc has won our coveted accolade of Driver of the weekend (as well as the F1 Driver of the Day). Comfortably outpacing his more experienced Sauber team mate (Ericsson) in all three practice sessions and qualifying. Leclerc started from P13 on the grid, the best of his F1 career to date, having moved up one place from qualifying due to Hulkenberg’s five place grid penalty.

Step by step moving his way forward through the field (overtaking a Ferrari at one point) he drove the race of his life, kept out of trouble and finished in sixth place, netting his first ever F1 points, which, he said, ‘felt like a win.’ Leclerc has been tipped to replace Raikkonen when he leaves Ferrari…….I wonder how long we’ll have to wait to see that?

Well done Charles!!

@F1TheaJ

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